Plans call for complete removal of radioactive contents of 10-acre IWCS
√ Corps eyes return of site for industrial uses
By Terry Duffy
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District, this week announced updates concerning its long-anticipated remediation plans for the Niagara Falls Storage Site in northern Lewiston.
A World War II-era operation, the 7,500-acre original Lake Ontario Ordinance Works site (LOOW), where the NFSS is found, saw a variety of war activities, including munitions manufacturing. That was followed by the handling and storage of nuclear and hazardous wastes from the early 1940s to the 1980s. Today, LOOW consists largely of private properties, the Lewiston-Porter School District, private municipal and hazardous waste landfilling companies, and the 191-acre NFSS owned by the federal government.
It is at the NFSS site – a property under the oversight and maintenance of the Army Corps – where plans were earlier announced for a full-remediation/removal of the nearly 10-acre largely underground Interim Waste Containment Structure. The cell houses a number of radioactive wastes of various concentrations and levels of danger; remnants of discarded equipment and building debris from past LOOW site activities; and radioactive soils from storage and filling.
Constructed in the late 1980s, the IWCS is said to have an estimated shelf life of 25-50 years. It has been monitored and strictly maintained by the agency ever since, and remains largely closed to the public.
Following years of study and discussion among the Corps and a number of citizen stakeholders in the Buffalo-Niagara area, plans were developed and finalized for a complete removal/remediation of the IWCS radioactive contents. A project estimated at close to a half-billion dollars, plans for the massive federal cleanup cleared various funding appropriations in Congress over recent years. This is now moving toward reality.
“We continue to make progress on our work for the Niagara Falls Storage Site. … We are striving to complete the cleanup as safely and quickly as possible,” said Arleen K. Kreusch, APR, outreach program specialist for the U.S. Army Corps, Buffalo District.
Kreusch said plans for the first phase of the site cleanup involve the removal of contaminated soils, building foundations, and groundwater outside of the IWCS.
“We are on schedule to complete the Balance of Plant and Groundwater Operable Units Record of Decision for this phase. … We will be ready to award a contract in fiscal year 2023 (Oct. 1, 2022 – Sept. 30, 2023),” Kreusch said. “The district is pleased to announce the availability of the Record of Decision for the Balance of Plant and Groundwater Operable Units (OUs) Niagara Falls Storage Site.”
According to the Corps, the record of decision involves plans for complete removal of the NFSS, with a long-term goal of remediating the site for industrial uses.
“The record of decision documents the Corps of Engineers’ selected remedy for the Balance of Plant and Groundwater OUs, Alternative 2, Complete Removal,” the Corps said. “The major components of the selected remedy include: removal and off-site disposal of radiological-and/or chemically contaminated soil, road bedding, and Building 401 foundation/utilities; removal and off-site disposal of impacted foundations and underlying soil, including Building 430 and 431/432, and Building 433; and removal and off-site disposal of a chlorinated volatile organic compound soil and groundwater plume and placement of clay backfill into the excavation. FUSRAP-related material that is removed will be transported off-site for disposal at an appropriately permitted disposal facility.”
Following comments received from the public, the Corps said its previously selected remedy for the Balance of Plant and Groundwater OUs was changed to complete removal from the preferred alternative outlined in the proposed plan, which was Alternative 3, Removal with Building Decontamination.
“The main differences between the alternatives are the remedial strategies for building foundations (other than Building 401) and the chlorinated volatile organic compound plume,” the Corps said. “Contaminated concrete will be excavated under Alternative 2 and would have been scarified to remove contamination and left in place under Alternative 3. Clay soil be used to backfill the chlorinated volatile organic compound excavation area to ensure the protectiveness of the remedy.”
The remedial activities outlined in the record of decision for the Balance of Plant and Groundwater OUs are integral to a holistic site-wide remediation. The Corps said a contract to remediate the Balance of Plant and Groundwater OUs is scheduled to be awarded in 2023.
In September 2021, the Corps of Engineers awarded a $35 million architect-engineer contract to prepare detailed plans and designs and provide construction management services for the complete removal of the IWCS. Following the complete removal of the IWCS contents, the soils beneath the IWCS will be investigated and remediated, as necessary, using the remediation goals established in the record of decision for the Balance of Plant and Groundwater OUs.
“Much of the IWCS design effort and the remediation of soils, foundations, and groundwater outside the IWCS will occur simultaneously,” the Corps said. “During the design effort, we will develop more detailed schedules to forecast more precisely the durations of the design, construction, and remediation activities to complete the site cleanup.”
“We are on schedule to award the remediation contract to implement this decision in 2023.”
The Corps’ pre-solicitation notice for the remediation contract is found online at https://sam.gov/opp/579225c56d6047a08a1927b0d4c7b5d5/view.
Following completion of site-wide remedial activities, the Corps said the site would be suitable for industrial use (i.e., protective of construction, industrial, and maintenance workers, as well as adolescent and adult trespassers). Five-year reviews will be conducted to ensure protectiveness of the remedy.
The Corps Record of Decision and fact sheet can be accessed on the project website at https://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Missions/HTRW/FUSRAP/Niagara-Falls-Storage-Site/, in the reports section and fact sheet section, respectively.
For more information on the NFSS, email [email protected].